Oncologist Perceptions of Algorithm-Based Nudges to Prompt Early Serious Illness Communication: A Qualitative Study

J Palliat Med. 2022 Nov;25(11):1702-1707. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2022.0095. Epub 2022 Aug 18.


Background: Early serious illness conversations (SICs) about goals of care and prognosis improve mood, quality of life, and end-of-life care quality. Algorithm-based behavioral nudges to oncologists increase the frequency and timeliness of such conversations. However, clinicians' perspectives on such nudges are unknown. Design: Qualitative study consisting of semistructured interviews among medical oncology clinicians who participated in a stepped-wedge cluster randomized trial of Conversation Connect, an algorithm-based intervention consisting of behavioral nudges to promote early SICs in the outpatient oncology setting. Results: Of 79 eligible oncology clinicians, 56 (71%) were approached to participate in interviews and 25 (45%) accepted. Key facilitators to algorithm-based nudges included prompting documentation of conversations, peer comparisons, performance reports, and validating norms around early conversations. Barriers included cancer-specific heterogeneity in algorithm performance and the frequency and tone of text messages. Areas of improvement included utilizing different information channels, identifying patients earlier in the disease trajectory, and incorporating patient-targeted messaging that emphasizes the value of early conversations. Conclusions: Oncology clinicians identified key facilitators and barriers to Conversation Connect. These insights inform future algorithm-based supportive care interventions in oncology. Controlled trial (NCT03984773).

Keywords: advance care planning; artificial intelligence; cancer; interview [publication type]; machine learning.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Algorithms
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Oncologists*
  • Quality of Life

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03984773